Thursday, December 21, 2023

Weird Tales at the End of the Year

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. It's a happy day, for even if we have cold, gray days following this one, they will be longer and longer with each one that passes. It's no wonder that this became a season of holidays. Hanukkah has passed, but Christmas is still ahead of us. I want to wish everyone the Happiest and Most Blessed Christmas and a Very Happy New Year. We all need these things.

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I had planned to write more on the first year of Weird Tales before 2023 came to an end, but I have run out of time this year and I'll have to pick up again next. One short series will be on anniversary issues of Weird Tales. In October, I ordered my copy of the 100th anniversary issue directly from the Weird Tales website. My plan was to write about these issues during the month of December. I ran out of time of course, but I also haven't received my copy. I guess Weird Tales is back to its old habits. Maybe next year. I'm also planning to write about another cover artist, as well as the most valuable players in that first year. I also discovered some interesting authors of 1923 whom I haven't covered yet. I would like to write about them, too. So come back. There will be more.

Text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Jewish Authors in Weird Tales

With his story "Fear" in the April issue of 1923, David R. Solomon (1893-1951) was the first Jewish author that I know of to be published in Weird Tales. There were others who followed and more, I'm sure, awaiting discovery as I go along in this blog.

So far, I have covered the following Jewish authors who were published in Weird Tales:

  • Isaac Asimov (1919 or 1920-1992) was born in Russia and grew up in Brooklyn. He was the author of hundreds of books, including books on both science and the Bible. He considered himself a secular Jew.
  • Max Brod (1884-1968), a native of Prague, fled the Nazi takeover of his city in 1939 and spent the rest of his life in the land that became Israel, and after 1948 was and still is Israel. He took with him the papers of his friend Franz Kafka (1883-1924), thereby saving them from destruction.
  • Harlan Ellison (1934-2018) was one of the most well known--and perhaps notorious--of all science fiction authors. He called himself in more than one interview "a stiff-necked Jewish atheist."
  • Myrtle Levy Gaylord (1895-1960), descended from Russian-Polish Jews, was born in San Francisco. She was a pulp fiction author and a journalist who worked in Spokane, Washington.
  • S. Gordon Gurwit (1887-1955), originally Gurivit or Gurevit, was the son of Russian-born immigrants to America. His wife, Ruth (Stein) Gurwit (1894-1981), and son, Montgomery Stanhope "Monte" Gurwit (1920-1993), were also writers. They lived in Chicago and Florida.
  • Henry Lieferant (1892-1968) was born in Austria, in a city that is now part of Poland. I don't know for a fact that he was Jewish, but I believe that he was. His original surname may have been something other than Lieferant. I base that supposition only on the fact that I haven't found anything on him from before the Great War. He came to the United States in 1910. His wife was Sylvia B. Saltzberg.
  • Edith Ogutsch (1929-1990), daughter of a cantor and teacher of religion, was born in Germany and escaped from the Nazi regime on board a Kindertransport to London. She grew up in England and came to America in 1947. She was primarily a poet. 
  • Sylvia B. Saltzberg (1896-1952), wife and writing partner of Henry Lieferant, was the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Russia or Lithuania. She worked in medicine in New York City before becoming a writer. She and her husband wrote a number of romances involving doctors and nurses.
  • Nathan Schachner (1895-1955) was the son of Austrian-Jewish immigrants. He was born in New York City, educated in law and chemistry, and worked as a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. He was director of public relations of the National Council of Jewish Women and a consultant with the American Jewish Committee.
  • Oscar Schisgall (1901-1984) was born either in Russia or Belgium. Most sources say Belgium. His parents, however, were Russian Jews. According to the 1930 Federal census, he spoke Flemish before coming to America in 1925. His novel Swastika (1939) was adapted to the silver screen as The Man I Married, also known as I Married a Nazi (1940).
  • J. Schlossel (1902-1977) was Joseph H. Schlossel, a Jewish writer who was born either in New York or Canada, lived in Canada for several years, after that in New York, and wrote just six published stories.
  • Nadia Lavrova (1897-1989) was born Nadia Lavrova Shapiro in Irkutsk, Russia. I don't know for a fact that she was Jewish. At some point she dropped her surname Shapiro and went by the pen name Nadia Lavrova. However, her father was named Lazar Solomonovich Shapiro (1863-1934). If I understand Russian naming properly, that means his father was named Solomon, of course a Hebrew name.
  • Henry Slesar (1927-2002) was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants whose native language was Yiddish and who came to the United States in 1921. He was an extremely prolific writer, including for CBS Radio Mystery Theater, a show we listened to when we were kids in Indianapolis. I believe it came out of a station in Chicago, and it played in the evening. I remember the sound of the creaking door and the host's closing words: "Until next time, pleasant . . . dreams?"
  • Arthur Leo Zagat (1896-1949) was, like his writing partner Nathan Schachner, born in New York City and studied law and chemistry. In 1941, Zagat was elected to the national executive committee for the pulp writers' section of the Authors League of America. Oscar Schisgall served as chairman, while Zagat was treasurer.

I have also written about Jewish authors of science fiction and fantasy who were not in "The Unique Magazine":

I write on this topic today because of the current world situation. In September, I wrote about how old gods have returned to earth. Now we see clearly that an old hatred has returned, too. It is in fact one of the oldest hatreds in the world and has never really gone away. Like the plague in Albert Camus' novel, it withdraws from time to time into its hidden places, only to come forth again with renewed virulence. That hatred is of course Jew-hatred, and it lives again--more accurately it shows itself again--at our highest levels of government and academia, as well as in our news media. It also lives at the lowest intellectual levels, namely among high school and university students, White House interns, people on the Internet, and even members of Congress, who have chased, surrounded, harassed, threatened, attacked, insulted, chanted and protested against, and attempted to silence, intimidate, and dehumanize Jews, as well as the non-Jews who stand with them. These are human beings and our fellow Americans, and yet they have become fair game, as if this were Nazi Germany or tsarist Russia. I never thought we would see such things here, but the America that once was may not be any longer. Maybe we are at the beginning of a new terror and a new tyranny in our country.

In any case, I can imagine a group of Nazis and klansmen showing up at a pro-terrorist rally on a university campus somewhere in America. They believe the exact same things as the pro-terrorist students and professors, speak the exact same words, carry the exact same signs, only to be told, "Go away. These are our Jews to hate." Although they believe the same things, have the same aspirations, and are ultimately of the same piece, the supporters of terror and the apologists of pogrom believe themselves to be different from Nazis. As always, people on their side of the political spectrum lack self-awareness. I imagine also a different version of the scene in Blazing Saddles in which there are Nazis, klansmen, and other villains waiting in an employment line. Now add some twenty-first century university students and idiot congresswomen to the line and reverse the roles. Now Cleavon Little holds Gene Wilder by his shirt collar, shouting, "Hey, boys, look what I got here." Now the university students go chasing after the Jew, with glee, in hopes of harming or even killing him. Remember that the klansmen in the movie wear on their robes emojis, a major form of communication in our post-literate age.

There are probably those who would prefer that I not name or recognize Jewish authors, especially someone like Max Brod, who was a Zionist and who lived and died in Israel. But even Isaac Asimov, who considered himself an atheist and a liberal, was proud of his Jewish identity and heritage. He would not disavow his religion or culture or his own given name. According to journalist Stephen Silver, Asimov's "own personal success" was unimpeded by antisemitism. Nonetheless, Asimov found it "'difficult to endure . . . the feeling of insecurity, and even terror, because of what was happening in the world'." (From "Judaism Was Complex for Isaac Asimov, Whose 'Foundation' Series Is Now a TV Show" on the website of The Times of Israel, September 24 2021, here. The ellipses are in the original article. The full quote is from I, Asimov: A Memoir [1994], pp. 20-21.)

We know now that liberalism and progressivism are luxuries among Jews. In ordinary times, their political beliefs might be enough to ward off the subtler forms of anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred that live among their fellow liberals and progressives. But in times of terror, they will not protect them. Even an atheistic or socialistic Jew--a cultural versus a practicing or devout Jew--is Jewish enough to be subjected to anti-Semitic terror, murder, and imprisonment. In other words, in the hierarchy of progressivism, some people are worthy and some are not. Like women under transgenderism, Jews can and will be canceled, silenced, and erased, sometimes, as we have seen in the case of Paul Kessler, with lethal aims and results.

If they were still living, I might hesitate to name the Jewish authors listed above, as that might give terrorists, including intellectual terrorists, a list of targets to go after. But I name them, I recognize them, and I give them credit. I stand with them and with the Jewish people as individuals and as a whole, past and present, and with the nation of Israel in its fight against Jew-haters, murderers, rapists, baby-killers, terrorists, and pogromists. Their cause is righteous, God is with them, and I believe they will prevail.

I live in a small city that is home to a big university. On Saturday, October 7, I walked to a local museum to see an exhibit of art created by my friend S.P. Along the way, I walked through a student neighborhood. It was homecoming weekend, and so a lot of students were out in their yards, drinking, partying, and having fun. I saw a student wearing an Israeli flag like a cape. I didn't know then what had happened in Israel that day, but I'm always glad to see signs of support for Israel and for the Jewish people. If nothing else, the atrocities of that day have granted us a great moral clarity. It is absolutely crystalline, in high relief, precisely delineated, razor-sharp along its edges. We know now who is on one side of that line and who is on the other. In this era, there's a lot to be said for college students who like to drink and party and don't care anything at all about politics. Thank God for non-activists. But there is more to be said for one man who would wear--like a superhero--a flag bearing the blue Star of David in support of a people whom so many others, including in American universities, want to see exterminated and their nation destroyed. (Remember that the most popular superheroes were created or co-created by American Jews.) Last week, we witnessed the spectacle of three women on the opposite ends of academic power, three cowardly and morally reprehensible university presidents who were either unwilling or found themselves unable to condemn genocide against the Jewish people. Pick any other group and they would have spoken out against wiping them out. But in the halls of academia in America, the mass murder of Jews is nuanced and contextual, "nuance" and "context" being two words used to defend and apologize for these hateful women and their hateful ideas. Thankfully now one of them is gone from her position. We can only hope that the other two and all like them will soon be gone as well. They could go to work in fast food except that even in fast food there are standards of conduct that they could not meet.

The city in which I live is full of leftists, socialists, statists, progressives, and other kinds of Democrats. Some of these people put out yard signs, "Black Lives Matter" or "We Stand with Ukraine." This is of course extreme virtue signaling and conspicuous moral preening. In strong contrast, I haven't seen any "Jewish Lives Matter" or "We Stand with Israel" signs. The student with the cape stands alone. Never mind that Black Lives Matter, in its own words, "stands in solidarity with Palestinians," or that Black Lives Matter Grassroots issued a statement following the pogrom of October 7 beginning with these words: "When a people have been subject to decades of apartheid and unimaginable violence, their resistance must not be condemned, but understood as a desperate act of self-defense."* In other words, those Israelis got what they deserved for being oppressors, including, I suppose, the Jewish baby baked in an oven.

As for Ukraine, we should remember that the previous democratically elected government in Ukraine was overthrown--with the support of the U.S. government and/or people and/or elements within our government, I might add--and replaced with an unlawful regime; that the current Ukrainian regime has declared martial law, delayed elections, outlawed certain political parties, barred people from traveling freely, silenced dissenters, closed down churches, oppressed ethnic minorities, and now has the power to and in fact does regulate its news media; that Ukraine is utterly corrupt in moral, financial, economic, and political terms, that corruption easily demonstrated in the case of our current president's ties to Ukraine and its oil industry, if not other industries; and that there are or were Nazoid or Nazi-istic elements within the Ukrainian military, if not the Ukrainian government itself. Go ahead if you want, stand with that Ukraine.

There are people who have tried to draw parallels between Ukraine and Israel. I would say to them: Ukraine is not a democracy and not an ally of the United States. Its agents and sympathizers in our government actually tried to bring down our president. Israel, on the other hand, is both our ally and a democracy. The Ukrainian government suppresses or has banned the political opposition. The leader of the opposition in Israel is now a member of the war cabinet. Ukraine is a failure, a giant scam disguised as a country, before the war a playground for the worst of Western corruptocrats. Again, witness the ties our current president, through his son, has to Ukraine. Israel on the other hand is not corrupt. It is a free country. Israel is also an economic success, which is, truth be told, one of the complaints that its enemies have against it.** Israel will continue in its war whether the United States and Europe support it or not. Ukraine can't continue in its war without that support. Its president and other leaders act like entitled beggars who believe we must support them, must continue to pour money into their open maws--or else, they threaten. Finally, again, there are or were Nazis, neo-Nazis, or people who play at being Nazis within Ukraine, including within its military. Think of it: we are sending aid, including military aid, to Nazis, or as I've called them, Nazoids. What kind of crazy world are we living in? What have our elites become in their utter derangement?

Anyway, it would of course be an absurdity to say that there are Nazis within Israel. In actuality, the people with Nazi-istic aims are on the opposite side, in Gaza, Judea, Samaria, and perhaps worst of all in Western governments and universities. These people live by pretzel logic. Russia is warring against Ukraine. Russia also supports the terrorists in Gaza. The pro-Ukraine people in the West are against Russia. Many of them are also against Israel (Jews in general) and in favor of the terrorists that are trying to exterminate them. Our current president is soft on Iran, which wants to destroy Israel and the Jewish people, and yet he's called "Genocide Joe" by the pro-pogrom people in America for his support of Israel, such as it is. The Canadian Parliament recently applauded a Ukrainian Nazi for fighting against Russia during World War II. Meanwhile, in America, there are antifa people who want to punch a Nazi, and yet I'm certain that there is a lot of overlap--maybe complete overlap--between them and the Jew-haters in our country. Antifa really likes Nazis and they want to punch them, both at the same time. How do these people keep all of their hatreds and all of their loyalties straight in their heads?

So is this blog the right place for these things? Maybe. Maybe not. But other than my yard, where I could put a sign that would probably be ripped out, it's the only place I have. Also, this is my blog, and I get to use it as I please. Beyond that, as a writer, I would like to have my thoughts known on such important topics, including as they pertain to other writers, their words, their ideas, and most of all their lives. Beyond that still, if we are to be decent people, we must call out and confront indecent people. These are, after all, the two races of men as identified by Victor Frankl, a Jew and a survivor of the Holocaust.

In these past two months, we have seen extremes of indecency and depravity, not only in the terrorists and pogromists of Gaza but also in their supporters and apologists in the West. On October 7, there were more Jews murdered in the world than at any time since World War II, more Americans killed at any one time by Islamist terrorists since 2016, and more Americans taken hostage by that same brand of terrorist since 1981. I think, anyway. It's hard to say for sure because the numbers and the facts are so hard to come by. It's clear that we're not supposed to know how many Americans were killed on October 7 nor how many are being held hostage by the terrorists. The figure I have for the number killed--33--is ultimately from a French-language source. Apparently, American "journalists," a really incurious group when you get down to it, can't bring themselves to look into or talk about these things. Ask the Internet how many Americans were killed or how many American hostages are being held. You will get nowhere fast. The facts and the figures have gone into the memory hole.

To get back to my point, we must speak out against indecency and depravity whenever we can, wherever we can, and in whatever way we can, especially when those around us remain silent.

So today I write in recognition of Jewish authors and in support of Israel and the Jewish people.


*Never mind also that Black Lives Matter was founded by self-admitted "trained Marxists" and that they want to do away with the family, as Marxists do the world over. Remember that Marxism is very often anti-Jewish. In Karl Marx's own words: "In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism." (Apparently, Marx used the N-word when writing about his Jewish rival, Ferdinand Lasalle. That's supposed to be an unforgivable sin, but to Marxists, I guess, Marx was the perfect man.) Remember that a Jew, Leon Trotsky, was one of the lead villains in Stalin's great, horrific, decades-long drama of terror, and that another, the fictional Emmanuel Goldstein, plays that same role in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Now remember the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., regarding the oppression of Jews in the Soviet Union, from fifty-seven years ago this week:

"We cannot sit complacently by the wayside while our Jewish brothers in the Soviet Union face the possible extinction of their cultural and spiritual life. Those that sit at rest, while others take pains, are tender turtles and buy their quiet with disgrace."

Whom do you prefer, Dr. King or BLM? Like Ukraine, Black Lives Matter is a scam, essentially a moneymaking operation for its leaders. Go ahead if you want, support that scam, too.

**Socialists, whether they be Nazis or Bolsheviks, are anti-liberal. They despise free-market economics and free associations among men made outside of the State. These things they call capitalism. Where there is freedom, some people will have more than others. Some will be more successful than others. That's one of the reasons that socialists hate freedom, especially free economic activity. Non-Jewish envy of Jewish success partly--or maybe wholly--explains the hatred that socialists have for Jews. As Ambrose Bierce wrote, success is "the one unpardonable sin against one's fellows." Remember here that the Palestinian Liberation Organization includes or has included Marxist, socialist, and Maoist groups. Remember also that some of the most rabid anti-Israel and anti-Jewish Arab regimes are or were Ba'athist regimes, Ba'athism being just another brand of socialism. Finally, remember that António Guterres, the current secretary general of the United Nations, by the way another Jew-hating organization, is also a socialist. He as much as anyone wants Israel to lose and the terrorists and Jew-murderers to win this war. We can predict that the closer Israel comes to victory, the more desperate will be the calls for ceasefire from him and his fellow travelers.

So, as an aside, a maxim:

If people are free, they will not be equal. And if they are to be made equal, they can't be permitted their freedom.

Original text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, November 17, 2023

Edgar Allan Poe in the First Year of Weird Tales

This is a very long essay, but as it is about Edgar Allan Poe, I think I should offer it to you all in one piece so that, if you're able, you can read it in one sitting.

* * *

In early 1809, two men were born who would change the nation, though in different realms and at different scales. The first-born of them came into the world in a great eastern city. The second was born on the American frontier. The first was born in the North but grew up in the South. The other made the opposite kind of journey. Both were orphaned in their childhood. Both were frequent failures and had great tragedy in their lives. Both men served in the military, though only for a short time. Both were known for their writing, their words, and their sense of humor.

Both of these men of 1809 died too young, the second-born by violence, the first perhaps also by violence. They died within forty miles of each other, though their deaths were separated by sixteen years and more. The second died in spring, when lilacs bloomed in the dooryard. His death was mourned by millions, and millions witnessed the passing of his funeral train to the final resting place of his earthly body. The second died in autumn. His body was placed in a simple coffin and only a few attended his funeral. The service lasted all of three minutes on a "dark and gloomy [. . . a] raw and threatening day," according to one of the attendees. The headstone of the departed lacked even his name. Only decades after his death did his grave receive proper attention. Now both men are renowned all over the world and both graves are well visited.

The first-born was conservative. In his work, he explored, among other things, the afflicted psyche of the modern man. The other was liberal. He warred against the ancient institution of slavery. The first was one of our greatest writers. There is a professional football team named after one of his poems. The second was one of our greatest presidents. You will see his visage on pennies, five-dollar bills, and the face of Mount Rushmore. It's strange to think that Abraham Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe were born just twenty-four days apart.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was and is justly revered in America. There have probably been more books written about him than anyone else in our history. From the moment of his death, the Rail-Splitter, our Great Emancipator, has never been forgotten and is always close in our thoughts as we contemplate the history and meaning of our country. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) on the other hand was slandered at his death, and though his works were still in print for many years afterwards, there were long periods during which he seems to have been almost forgotten, or at least relegated to a minor place in American letters.

That changed as the nineteenth century went on. If you look at the list of collections by Poe in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, you will see big gaps--1856 to 1869, 1871 to 1878--begin to narrow as the turn of the century approached. And every year or almost every year from about 1888 to today, there has been a collection of Poe's works published somewhere in the world. One of those collections, a fairly early one in fact, was entitled Weird Tales (1895).

Jacob Clark Henneberger (1890-1969), cofounder of Weird Tales magazine, is a curious case. He helped bring Weird Tales to life in 1923 and helped keep it alive in 1924 and after. He seems to have been devoted to the magazine and to weird fiction in general, and yet we have almost nothing from his own hand on any subject at all. He seems to have been almost an invisible partner in the whole affair and to have essentially disappeared after the 1920s. But in a letter dated April 14, 1969, exactly seven months before his death, he wrote to Joel Frieman about his adolescent encounter with Poe:

As a lad of 16 I attended a military academy in Virginia. The English department was headed by one Capt. Stevens, a hunchback who was a rather chauvinistic chap in that he favored Southern writers. One entire semester was devoted to Poe! You can imagine how immersed I became in him. . . . (Ellipses in the original source, WT 50: A Tribute to Weird Tales, edited by Robert A. Weinberg, 1974, page 6.)

The school of which Henneberger wrote was Staunton Military Academy in Staunton, Virginia. Capt. Stevens was Captain Luke Leary Stevens (1878-1944), who, in addition to being a teacher, was a farmer, a school superintendent, and a state representative of his home county.

Note that Henneberger wrote that he became "immersed" in Poe. There is a suggestion but not quite an affirmation that he was in fact a fan of Poe. There is a general lack of information--a lack of being entirely forthcoming--in Henneberger's letter that I find frustrating. Why not tell us the name of the school? Why do we have to "imagine how immersed" in Poe he became? And how exactly did he feel about Poe? Why doesn't he say? But then Henneberger founded and stuck with a magazine based on Poe--or at least I believe that it was based on Poe--and so we should assume, I guess, that he was a fan not only of the author but also of weird, mysterious, and fantastic fiction in general.

H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) was much more direct. In his first letter printed in "The Eyrie" (Sept. 1923), he wrote:

"My models are invariably the older writers, especially Poe, who has been my favorite literary figure since early childhood."

This is how you do it, J.C.!

Henneberger and Lovecraft were contemporaries. They were born a little more than six months apart, Lovecraft in an old, Waspish New England city, Henneberger in rural and small-town Pennsylvania Dutch country. Both grew up in the 1890s. Both would presumably have been exposed to Poe's stories and poems by way of collections published during that mauve decade. Both, too, would have turned the golden age of twelve years old in 1902, when several collections, including a 787-page edition of Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, were published, all in one year. As I've written before, I think that the most likely source of the title Weird Tales is in the Poe collection Weird Tales, published in 1895 by Henry Altemus Company of Philadelphia. Henneberger was "immersed" in Poe at age sixteen. Poe was Lovecraft's "favorite literary figure since early childhood." Many of Lovecraft's early stories, including "The Outsider" (Weird Tales, Apr. 1926), are very Poesque. Weird Tales itself would seem to have been a revival of and a venue for Poesque tales of mystery and imagination. Maybe its companion title, Detective Tales, was intended to follow in the footsteps of the man who wrote the first detective story in our literature.

Other early contributors to Weird Tales were also Poe fans and Poe admirers. Poe's name was mentioned frequently in early letters to "The Eyrie," including in the very first one, submitted by Anthony M. Rud (1893-1942), author of the very first cover story as well and published in that same first issue, March 1923. Rud, then, was the first reader of Weird Tales to mention Poe in its pages. Many others followed in their letters to "The Eyrie," including:

Walter F. McCanless (1876-1965) was a Southern author. Like Captain Stevens, he hailed from North Carolina, and, like Stevens, who was two years his senior, he was a teacher. Maybe the two men knew each other. In any case, McCanless had a long letter in Weird Tales in March 1924. Part of his letter is a complaint about the short story "The Autobiography of a Blue Ghost" by Don Mark Lemon (1877-1961), which had appeared in Weird Tales in September 1923. In his letter, McCanless also urged the editor, Edwin Baird, not to print "The Transparent Ghost" by Isa-belle Manzer (1872-1944), and for about the same reason that he objected to Lemon's tale, namely, that it would make a farce of Weird Tales. (He was too late: the serialized story "The Transparent Ghost" was already in its second part by then.) McCanless moved on to his main point:

"We, of the South, believe in Edgar Allan Poe. To have it said of one that 'He writes like Poe' is, to our minds, the highest compliment that can be paid one. (By the way, 'The Crawling Death' by P.A. Connelly [sic; Weird Tales, Nov. 1923] is, in my opinion, equal, for thrills, to anything Poe ever wrote.) We, therefore, should hate to see a publication parody his best known style of writing. Poe, however, attempted humor of a sort (example, 'Why the Frenchman Wears His Arm in a Sling'), but with no very great degree of success, since he is best known for horror and mystery stories. To see these parodied by a publication would result in making such a publication taboo in the South. We turn to joke books that do not hurt our pride."

Poe may have been born in Boston, but Southerners, including Luke Leary Stevens and Walter F. McCanless, claimed him as one of their own, and I think rightly so. They were and are protective of Poe. Manly Wade Wellman, an adopted North Carolinian, wrote a story called "The Devil Is Not Mocked" (Unknown Worlds, June 1943). Well, McCanless wanted us to know that people of his region would not stand for Poe or the Poe-like story to be mocked either. By the way, we have probably all noticed that fans of fantasy, including comic book fantasy, take their subject seriously. They don't want it to be made fun of or mistreated in any way. That desire for seriousness goes back at least as far as 1924 and McCanless' letter.

The first editorial mention of Edgar Allan Poe in Weird Tales is in the blurb for "The Sequel" by Walter Scott Story (1879-1955), in the first issue of March 1923. That blurb reads:

Walter Scott Story offers a new conclusion to Edgar Allen [sic] Poe's "Cask of Amontillado"

(You'd think that a magazine based on Poe would spell his name right.)

I'll tell you right off that I think "The Sequel" was a needless effort, one that completely alters the meaning and undoes the intent of Poe's original. Story should have left well enough alone. An overly sensitive reader might even think of his tale as insulting towards Poe or even towards the art of literature in general. That's probably beside the point, which is that early tellers of weird tales were fully conscious of Poe. Some, like Walter Scott Story, wrote imitations, homages, or pastiches. Poe's influence upon certain other authors was more subtle.

Walter McCanless was getting at something when he wrote that Poe "is best known for horror and mystery stories,and it seems to me that very many of the early stories in Weird Tales were one of those two types. Both horror and mystery are broad terms. In a narrower sense, in the case of some of Poe's stories, horror can be taken as psychological horror, an account of the workings of one man's diseased mind, sometimes told from within that mind. "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843) is an example. As for mystery, we now think of that term in a narrow sense and as the name of a literary genre. There are other kinds of mysteries to be sure. But, again, Poe is credited with having invented the mystery genre, also called the detective story, with his first tale of C. Auguste Dupin, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841). Both of these examples were reprinted in Weird Tales as "Masterpieces of Weird Fiction."

The Poesque horror story and the Poesque detective tale come at things from two opposite ends. One is a tale of passion, feeling, irrationality. The other is dispassionate, reasoning, scientific. Remember that Poe called his detective stories "tales of ratiocination." He collected several stories of certain other types in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), the title perhaps inspired by Sir Walter Scott's essay, On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition (1827). I take grotesque and arabesque not as opposites but as two kinds of more or less the same thing. "William Wilson" (1840) and "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839), two stories of what I think you can call psychological horror, are included in Poe's contents.

The protagonist of the horror story is flawed--physically, mentally, or morally weak or deficient, if not insane. Maybe he is in a long line descended from Jack Williamson's Egyptian-Hebraic hero and a progenitor of the weird-fictional hero of the twentieth century. The Poesque detective, on the other hand, possesses a level and piercing intellect. Later American detectives, being flawed antiheroes, have more in common with the weird-fictional hero. British detectives, perhaps their French counterparts, too, also some prissy Americans, are at a higher level of society. In any event, the tale of ratiocination can be seen as the beginning not only of the detective story but also as a beginning of the science fiction story with its strong, able, and triumphant hero, a man who applies science and reason to all problems, thereby solving them. The bad part about all of that is that there may be very little of the human in the problem and especially in the problem-solving. Otis Adelbert Kline's Dr. Dorp, for example, is basically nonhuman. It's worth noting here that in an essay entitled "Edgar Allan Poe," D.H. Lawrence wrote:

     But Poe is rather a scientist than and artist. He is reducing his own self as a scientist reduces a salt in a crucible. It is an almost chemical analysis of the soul and consciousness. (p. 111)

That essay was published in 1923 of all years. (It was reprinted in The Recognition of Poe, edited by Eric W. Carlson and published in 1966, which is my source for the quote above.) If you read Poe, you might be struck by a lack of moral sense. Maybe he was more a scientist than artist after all. On the other hand, if his subject was himself, then he was both the rational scientist and the tormented and passionate individual placed on the examination table or under the microscope, in other words, a human being and perhaps an artist after all.

So Poe had his horror stories or weird tales and his detective stories or tales of ratiocination. Under J.C. Henneberger and his business partner John M. Lansinger (1892-1963), Detective Tales came first, on October 1, 1922, to be precise. Weird Tales followed of course in March 1923. There was and is crossover between weird fiction and mystery or detective fiction. Batman for example is both a detective and a weird-fictional hero. And as I've written before, "The Call of Cthulhu," doubtless a piece of weird fiction, can also be considered a detective story. (As in "Ooze," see below, the murderer in Lovecraft's story is not human, or at least some of the murders are committed by the nonhuman Cthulhu.) If, in 1923 and after, you had wanted straight science and no horror or weirdness in your literature of choice, you could have read Hugo Gernsback's radio magazines. Or you could have waited until Amazing Stories came along in April 1926, the same month, by the way, in which Weird Tales printed one of Lovecraft's most Poesque stories, "The Outsider." Shortly after that, Lovecraft began writing "The Call of Cthulhu" (Weird Tales, Feb. 1928), a mostly Lovecraftian story of some length, although it now occurs to me that it bears some similarity to "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket" (1838) by Poe.

The first story in the first issue of Weird Tales is "The Dead Man's Tale" by Willard E. Hawkins, a decidedly Poesque story of psychological horror, even if Hawkins was inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886). The story is told in the first person by a man deranged by his love for a woman. The first detective story is "The Chain" by Hamilton Craigie, which is ten stories into that inaugural issue. Although there is a somewhat weird element in Craigie's story, it's essentially a tale of ratiocination, and its hero is very nearly without flaw or weakness.

In between those two stories is "Ooze" by Anthony M. Rud, a proto-science-fictional tale of the South but also one involving some detective work, carried out by an urban-dwelling Northerner. (In "Ooze," the Southerners are generally low characters, the Northerners high, or at least medium-high.) In this case, the murderer is a giant amoeba rather than an orangutan, as in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." As for the first ape in Weird Tales, see "The Extraordinary Experiment of Dr. Calgroni" by Joseph Faus and James Bennett Wooding, also from March 1923 and also a story of super-science. And maybe at this point we should consider that all ape and gorilla stories are descended from "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and that that was the real gorilla connection in Weird Tales. By the way, Poe paired "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" with another of his stories in a one-bit pamphlet published in 1843. The other is a story called "The Man That Was Used Up" (1839). If you substitute one relative pronoun for another, you get "The Man Who Was Used Up," and so maybe we have another first for Edgar Allan Poe: he wrote the first story with the title construction "The Man Who . . .". The irony is that the pronoun who is used in reference to people, while that is used in reference either to people or things. So who--or what--is the title subject of Poe's story? Is he a man or is he something else?

I'm not sure that Poe was the first literary figure to treat a narrative from the viewpoint of a diseased, depraved, insane, or dysfunctional narrator, in other words, to turn a story upside down by making the villain his protagonist and to try, at least, to make him appear sympathetic, though in a perverse way. There may have been precedent for that in Shakespeare, for example in Othello. I think Poe took a lot from Shakespeare, and I would like to read about parallels in their work. Remember that the word and concept weird may have come to us through ShakespeareThomas De Quincey (1785-1859) and his confessions were a more immediate precedent perhaps. The hero or antihero of Gothic fiction and weird fiction, Nelson Algren's man with a golden arm, the Angry Young Men of postwar British literature--on and on they go--all may very well be descended from Poe's defective protagonists. So just remember the next time you're watching a movie or TV show and find yourself rooting for the thief, the murderer, or the drug addict: you may just be the latest consumer of a Poesque brand of fiction.

The narrator of "The Cask of Amontillado" is named Montresor. Like Iago, he has a complaint against his hapless victim, poor Fortunato. (Or Unfortunato.) You could call him a killer, but killing isn't exactly his aim. Instead, it's a perverse and depraved kind of revenge--or worse. Walter Scott Story's "Sequel" picks up where Poe left off. Story's story is overtly Poesque, a kind of pastiche in fact. Other Poesque tales are more subtle. However, the discerning reader can tell one when he or she sees it. For example, in the July/August 1923 installment of "The Eyrie," H. M. of New York, New York, remarked upon the similarity of "The Devil Plant" by Lyle Wilson Holden (Weird Tales, May 1923) to "The Cask of Amontillado." I have a feeling that if you were to study the first few years of Weird Tales contents, you would find many more parallels--which might be a polite word for ripoffs. We have seen the same thing during the past century regarding Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. (Not that I've been around for the past century.) That doesn't seem to be the case with Clark Ashton Smith, but how would you ever rip off CAS? With his language, imagery, and vast vocabulary, he seems to have made his work ripoff-proof.

The first mention of Poe in a nonfiction item in Weird Tales is in the first installment of "Weird Crimes"--its subject "Bluebeard"--by Seabury Quinn. That was in October 1923. The first mention in a story is in the March 1924 issue, in "The Fine Art of Suicide" by Howard Rockey (p. 19). Poe is also mentioned and even quoted in "Draconda" by John Martin Leahy. (p. 65; p. 70).

Rockey wrote:

"Some day," he would muse in his lighter moments, "an inspired genius will actually live or die a real story for me--with all the trimmings that even a Poe could desire--and I won"t have to fake a single detail!"

Leahy followed Rockey in his invocation of Poe, but at greater length:

     "You know," I said, "things come crowding into my mind--visions, memories, words spoken or written, some long forgotten. Among the words penned, induced no doubt by what has just been said, this haunting sentence of Poe's:

     "'No thinking being lives who, at some luminous point of his life of thought, has not felt himself lost amid the surges of futile efforts at understanding or believing, that any thing exists greater than his own soul'."

     "So you waded through Eureka. What did you get out of it?"

     "Not much; that and a few others. This, for instance:

     "'We walk about, amid the destinies of our world-existence, encompassed by dim and ever present Memories of a Destiny more vast'." (p. 65)


     Her figure was tall and slender and willowy. In her depthless eyes, and on and about her full lips, was a look the like of which I had never seen in all my life. It reminded one of sadness, and yet it was not an expression of sadness. If I were to say that it was one of deep experience, there would come, I believe, an idea of harshness or even cruelty perhaps; but there was neither harshness nor cruelty in the eyes of Draconda. It was, I fancy, an expression very like that in the orbs of Poe’s Ligeia: "I have felt it in the ocean--in the falling of a meteor." (p. 70)

I'm not sure that it really means anything, but Eureka (1848) is supposed to have been a work of ratiocination, while "Ligeia" (1838) is a horror story or weird tale.

May/June/July 1924 was past the one-year anniversary of Weird Tales. Nonetheless, I'll point out that Poe's name is mentioned ten times in Otis Adelbert Kline's manifesto-of-sorts "Why Weird Tales." Poe is the first author and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" the first story mentioned therein. Kline called "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" "[t]he greatest weird story and one of the greatest short stories ever written."

Edgar Allan Poe had fourteen stories and four poems in Weird Tales. Five of the stories were reprinted in the first year of the magazine in the series "Masterpieces of Weird Fiction." They were:

  • "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (the cover story of the June 1923 issue)
  • "The Pit and the Pendulum" (Oct. 1923)
  • "The Tell-Tale Heart" (Nov. 1923)
  • "The Black Cat" (Jan. 1924)
  • "Never Bet the Devil Your Head"(Mar. 1924)

Poe's next story reprinted in Weird Tales was "The Mask [sic] of the Red Death," in March 1926. The last was "The Fall of the House of Usher" in August 1939. Farnsworth Wright was editor during those years. Dorothy McIlwraith took over his post in 1940. I believe she emphasized new stories, but even she eventually turned to reprinting previously published works. But no more of Edgar Allan Poe.

One last thing regarding Poe and Weird Tales. In his lecture "House of Poe" (1959), poet Richard Wilbur remarked on Poe's repeated use of spirals and vortices in his work. These are in "MS. Found in a Bottle," "Descent into the Maelstrom," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "Metzengerstein," and "King Pest." Wilbur's speculation was that spirals and vortices "had some symbolic value for Poe." His conclusion: "What the spiral inevitably represents in any tale of Poe's is the loss of consciousness, and the descent of the mind into sleep." (The Recognition of Edgar Allan Poe, p. 257). There were circles and spirals on the cover of Weird Tales, but I think these went beyond the symbolism of Poe's stories and sleep was not at their end.

Edgar Allan Poe on the cover of Weird Tales, September 1939, with cover art by Virgil Finlay.

This will have to do until later in the month or maybe into December when I will wrap up this series on the 100-year anniversary of Weird Tales. Until then:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Original text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, November 13, 2023

Masterpieces of Weird Fiction

Weird Tales began reprinting classic tales of weird fiction in the May issue of 1923. The series is called "Masterpieces of Weird Fiction," and although the last entry is numbered six, there are actually seven entries. (The miscounting began with entry number five.) Five of the seven are by Edgar Allan Poe. We should remember that the co-founder of the magazine, Jacob C. Henneberger, was a great fan of Poe. Ambrose Bierce and Edward Bulwer-Lytton had one entry each in the series.

The first reprint was "The Haunted and the Haunters; or The House and the Brain" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, originally in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. DXXVI, August 1859. Also in the May 1923 issue was "The Closed Cabinet," ostensibly by an anonymous author but actually by Lady Gwendolen Cecil and originally in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. CLVII, No. DCCCLI, January 1895. Edwin Baird, the editor of Weird Tales, probably got both stories from Old-Time English Stories (1909), a volume in the series Library of the World's Best Mystery and Detective Stories, which I think was also called and/or reprinted as The Lock and Key Library. "The Closed Cabinet" was not named as one of the series, but it might as well have been. All of the others were by male authors.

The next entry in the series was "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe. It was the cover story for the June 1923 issue of Weird Tales and originally in Graham's Magazine in April 1841. Some people call it the first detective story. Poe called it a tale of ratiocination. It was the first story by Poe to appear in the magazine that was probably named after his posthumous collection from 1895. The cover illustration for that June issue was by William F. Heitman. Unfortunately, it turned out pretty poorly.

"Masterpieces of Weird Fiction" number three was "The Damned Thing" by Ambrose Bierce. Bierce's story was first in Town Topics: The Journal of Society on December 7, 1893, and reprinted in Weird Tales in September 1923. It was Bierce's only story in Weird Tales.

Edgar Allan Poe returned in the October 1923 issue with "The Pit and the Pendulum," first published in The Gift: A Christmas and New Year's Present for 1843 (1842). Although it was named as part of the series, "The Pit and the Pendulum" was not numbered. The same held true in November 1923 with the reprinting of Poe's story "The Tell-Tale Heart." It was originally in the first issue of James Russell Lowell's magazine The Pioneer in January 1843.

"Masterpieces of Weird Fiction" number five was "The Black Cat," again by Poe and originally in The Saturday Evening Post, August 19, 1843. "The Black Cat" was in Weird Tales in January 1924. Poe's "Never Bet the Devil Your Head" followed in March 1924. It was numbered as the sixth in the series but was actually number seven. The story was originally in Graham's Magazine as "Never Bet Your Head: A Moral Tale," in September 1841.

As far as I can tell, the next reprint in Weird Tales didn't come along until the issue of July 1925. A new series started then. Called "Weird Story Reprints," it ran for many years and included not just weird tales from the past but also reprints of stories that had originally appeared in Weird Tales itself.

I'm not sure that "Masterpieces of Weird Fiction" can be called a feature. I have used the word series instead. Nonetheless, I have included it in "Weird Tales Features" in the list of labels on the right.

"Masterpieces of Weird Fiction" in Weird Tales, May 1923 to March 1924:

  • No. 1--"The Haunted and the Haunters; or The House and the Brain" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (May 1923)
  • [No. 4]--"The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe (Oct. 1923)
  • [No. 5]--"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe (Nov. 1923)
  • No. 5 [actual No. 6]--"The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe (Jan. 1924)
  • No. 6 [actual No. 7]--"Never Bet the Devil Your Head" by Edgar Allan Poe (Mar. 1924)

"The Haunted and the Haunters" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton was in The Haunters and the Haunted and Other Ghost Stories, published by Corgi books in 1963. The artwork on the cover is signed, but this image is too poor for the signature to be legible. Can someone help?

Text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, November 10, 2023

Weird Crimes by Seabury Quinn

You could say that in its first two years in print, Weird Tales was actually three magazines overseen by three different editors: Edwin Baird from March 1923 to April 1924; an uncredited Otis Adelbert Kline for just one issue, May/June/July 1924; and Farnsworth Wright from November 1924 onward. (There weren't any issues in August through October 1924.) Seabury Quinn had the second feature to appear in Weird Tales, not counting "The Eyrie," the regular letters column. That feature, called "Weird Crimes," was in all three versions of Weird Tales and was published under all three editors.

Seabury Quinn (1889-1969) wrote more stories than anyone in Weird Tales. He also wrote fourteen non-fiction articles for the magazine. Half of those were in the series "Weird Crimes." The entries in this series are partly documentary and partly dramatic. You might describe them as historical reenactments, like what you would see today on TV.

The subjects of "Weird Crimes" are mostly serial killers, before serial killer was a term. That makes me wonder whether Quinn was the first author in Weird Tales to write about the serial killer. There is also necrophilia in the seventh and last installment of "Weird Crimes," but by the time it was published in November 1924, that very lurid and sensationalistic subject had already been treated in the magazine, in C.M. Eddy's short story "The Loved Dead," in May/June/July 1924.

The sixth installment of "Weird Crimes" is called "The Werewolf of St. Bonnot." I believe that was the first use of the word werewolf in the title of a story or article in Weird Tales. The subject is a serial killer, not an actual werewolf, but I wonder whether Quinn introduced the concept of the werewolf into Weird Tales as well. (Historically, serial killers were often called werewolves or vampires, before the term serial killer was coined.)

Quinn was already in his early thirties when "Weird Crimes" appeared. His career writing stories for popular magazines had begun in 1918 with two entries in Detective Story Magazine. But even by 1923, he had had only five published stories to his credit, this according to the list in The FictionMags Index. Writing "Weird Crimes" must have been a good exercise for him.

Like H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), Seabury Quinn seems to have been waiting for a magazine like Weird Tales to come along. He had his first story in the magazine in October 1923, the same issue in which "Weird Crimes" made its debut. Entitled "The Phantom Farmhouse," it proved popular and enduring and was even adapted to a second-season episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery in 1971-1972. October 1923, one hundred years past, must have been a good month for Quinn in his budding career as a published author.

"Weird Crimes" by Seabury Quinn, Weird Tales, October 1923 through November 1924:

  • "No. 1--Bluebeard" (Oct. 1923)--In the first installment of "Weird Crimes," Quinn wrote of Gilles de Laval (ca. 1405-1440), who is supposed by some to have been the inspiration for the fairy tale character Bluebeard. Quinn's account runs to nearly six pages in the magazine and closes with a note associating Gilles de Laval with Jack the Ripper as victims of "that form of insanity known to modern scientists as algolagnia."
  • "No. 2  The Grave Robbers" (Nov. 1923)--The second installment of "Weird Crimes" is a little less than two pages long. Its subjects are Benjamin Shermerkey of Chicago; Samuel Deutsch of New York; and Samuel F. Ware of Atlanta. I did a quick search for these names in newspapers and came up empty on all counts.
  • "No. 3  The Magic Mirror Murders" (Jan. 1924)--Andrew Bichel (ca. 1760-1809), an nineteenth-century Bavarian killer, is the subject of the third installment, which runs to a little more than four pages. The title refers to a crystal ball or looking glass that Bichel used to entice his victims. 
  • "No. 4  Swiatek, the Beggar" (Feb. 1924)--The subject of the fourth installment of "Weird Crimes" is referred to only by the name Swiatek. Like Andrew Bichel, he was a serial killer, also of the nineteenth century, in his case in Galicia. His story fills almost three pages.
  • "No. 5  Mary Blandy" (Apr. 1924)--Mary Blandy (1720-1752) knowingly or unknowingly poisoned her father, and for that she was hanged on Easter Monday, April 6, 1752. Seabury Quinn told her story in four pages and more of the April 1924 issue of Weird Tales.
  • "No. 6  The Werewolf of St. Bonnot" (May/June/July 1924)--The sixth installment of "Weird Crimes" appeared in the jumbo-sized triple issue of May/June/July 1924. Its subject is Gilles Garnier (d. 1573), another serial killer, whom Quinn categorized yet again as "a victim," in this case of zoomania, or loupomania. It looks as though Seabury Quinn took a scientific view of murder and psychopathy. The explanation seems to be that serial killers are not responsible for their actions, as they are afflicted with mental illness. Quinn's account runs to three pages, plus his closing note.
  • "No. 7  The Human Hyena" (Nov. 1924)--The November 1924 issue, the first after a hiatus of half a year, was also a jumbo-sized issue. It ran to 194 pages in all. "The Human Hyena" was the last installment of "Weird Crimes." I suspect it had been ready for publication earlier in the year and was simply held over during the months that Weird Tales was not in print. The case of the Human Hyena--François Bertrand (1823-1878)--was one of the most sensationalistic in the series. In 1924, Quinn could not have gone into detail very much regarding Bertrand's crimes. Suffice it to say, the term necrophilia was coined because of what Bertrand had done in the cemeteries of Paris. I wonder if Bertrand's story could have been an influence on C.M. Eddy in his writing of "The Loved Dead."

An illustration of François Bertrand reproduced in the French magazine Détective, Number 410 (Sept. 3, 1936). I swiped this image from Wikipedia, who swiped it from somebody else. Here's the caption as it appears in Wikipedia:

Le Vampire, gravure extraite des Mémoires de M. Claude, chef de la police de sûreté sous le second Empire (Paris, Jules Rouff, vers 1880) et reproduite dans la revue Détective, n° 410 (3 septembre 1936).

Text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

"The Eyrie," November 1923

There are nineteen letters in Weird Tales for November 1923. It looks like the magazine was gaining pretty rapidly in popularity as 1923 went on. Beyond that, there were some very enthusiastic readers and fans aborning, people who praised and admired Weird Tales, passed issues around to their friends, looked for it on the newsstand every month, and began collecting and keeping issues instead of discarding them. (How many popular magazines went into the trash bin or incinerator in those days!)

One of the first Weird Tales controversies began in November 1924 when the editor, Edwin Baird, printed a letter by Mrs. D.M. Manzer, also known as Isa-belle Manzer, of Amarillo, Texas. The letter is practically illiterate. I can't imagine what the original manuscript would have looked like. Baird asked readers if he should publish the story based on Mrs. Manzer's letter and his brief description of her story. Evidently they said yes, for "The Transparent Ghost" was published as a three-part serial in February, March, and April 1924.

The writers of letters to "The Eyrie," November 1923:
  • Eighteen-year-old Homer O(ldham) Peterson (b. June 12, 1905, Valparaiso, Indiana; d. Dec. 18, 1978, New Castle, Indiana) of Delaware, Ohio, who commented on several stories in previous issues. Peterson went on to become a high school teacher in Ohio and Indiana. He taught English, French, and journalism and was also a champion chess player.
  • Twenty-year-old Cecil John Eustace (b. June 5, 1903, Walton-on-Thames, England; d. 1992) of the Bank of Montreal, St. Catherines, Ontario, who remarked that the August issue of Weird Tales was the first that he had seen in Canada. He was a recent arrival in Canada, having immigrated in August 1922 from his native England. Eustace was a writer of short stories and novels for popular and pulp magazines, including "Ten Days to Live" in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Summer 1928. Later he was an editor at J.M. Dent and Sons in Canada, retiring in 1967. He wrote a dozen books, some of which are novels, others non-fiction. He also collaborated with his daughter, (Elizabeth) Mary Eustace, on a musical. Cecil John Eustace was a Catholic author by the way.
  • Charles G(ilbert) Kidney (1892-1945) of Cleveland, Ohio, who greatly admired Hall's story. Born in Chicago and having died in Ohio, Kidney was buried in the in-between state of Indiana.
  • Sidney E. Johnson of Joplin, Missouri, who predicted that "the fiction center of the United States is going to shift from New York to Chicago." Presumably this was Sidney Evans Johnson (1882-1963). Johnson was like Johnny Appleseed: in his letter he wrote that he scattered copies of the magazine in an effort to grow more readers. Johnson had a second letter in Weird Tales in March 1925.
  • Mrs. Elizabeth Purington (dates uncertain--believe it or not, there were and are several Elizabeth Puringtons in America) of Santa Ana, California, who wrote about a dream she had had.
  • World War I veteran Ralph S. Happel (1892-1963) of Albany, New York.
  • Thomas J. Harris (dates unknown) of Brooklyn, New York.
  • Walter F. McCanless (1876-1965) of Wadesboro, North Carolina. He had a story, "The Phantom Violinist," in the same issue and would have two more letters in "The Eyrie" in 1924.
  • Godfrey Lampert (1898-1968) of Jasper, Indiana, who wrote a letter full of questions. Lampert was an artist, druggist, and city councilman in Jasper, a city known as a maker of office furniture.
  • Lee Andrews (1902-1977) of Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • Mrs. F. Wickman (1885-1942) of Duluth, Minnesota. Mrs. Wickman, aka Rosella (Cole) Wickman, really liked "The Gorilla" by Horatio V. Ellis, as well she should have, for the author, Horatio Vernon Ellis (1895-1945), was her son. And so we have an answer to the question of "Who was  . . ?" so commonly encountered when it comes to tellers of weird tales. 
  • Thirteen-year-old Ralph Fingle (dates unknown; his name may have been misspelled in print) of Long Beach, California, who took a quarter from "a very nearly empty bank" so that he could buy a copy of Weird Tales and read "The People of the Comet."
  • Mrs. Thomas Earl Davison (dates unknown) of Chicago, Illinois, who commented on stories from way back in the first issue. She thought of "The Basket" by Herbert J. Mangham (1896-1967) as "rotten." Believing she could do better, she submitted a story with her letter. I assume that her story is lost forever.
  • Edith Lyle Ragsdale (ca. 1878-?) of Centralia, Illinois, who liked weird stories and went on to write three of her own published in Weird Tales in 1924-1926.
  • E. B. (dates unknown) of West Point, Maine.
  • Gertrude (Carey) Strauss (1866-1929) of Puyallup, Washington, an artist and poet.
Writers of letters were real people who lived real lives. They were not just ghosts with addresses. Maybe we forget that. Isa-belle Manzer notwithstanding, many of the readers of Weird Tales read and wrote at a high level, evidence that pulp magazines were not necessarily trash. And of course many of those readers knew what is weird fiction or a weird tale, and they sought out that genre. Many also liked what they called "the scientific story," or what we would call science fiction, or at least science fantasy. There wasn't yet a name for that type a story--science fiction as a term did not appear in print until 1929--but they sought out that type of story, too, and asked for more.

I have read only a few of the stories published in Weird Tales in 1923, but I sense that in a brief eight months, from March to November of that first year, their average quality improved, while authors were reaching towards just what makes weird fiction, science fiction, and science fantasy. And of course in that first year, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Seabury Quinn, Otis Adelbert Kline, Frank Owen, Anthony M. Rud, and other returning authors made their debut in the magazine. Weird Tales could have died in its first year or two. But there were enough people who believed in it and wanted it to go on--readers included--that it was able to survive. And again, here we are one hundred years later and able to hold in our hands a newly printed issue of "The Unique Magazine," the magazine that never dies.

Homer O. Peterson (1905-1978), far right, in a photograph from the Indianapolis Star Magazine, November 9, 1958, whole page number 153.

Cecil John Eustace (1903-1992), from an article called "New Novel Written as Short Stories" in the Toronto Star, March 9, 1929, page 32.

Forty-five years later, Cecil Eustace with his daughter Mary in the same newspaper, the Toronto Star, November 23, 1974, whole page number 119. Photograph by Dick Darrell.

Godfrey Lampert (1898-1968), third from the left (in the dark suit), from the Jasper, Indiana, Herald, December 31, 1955, page 1.

Original text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley